Selling Your Ideas Up: How to Overcome Objections and Get Your Ideas Approved

Daniel Burrus
4 min readJan 30, 2019

In an era of fiscal and timeconstraints, is it possible to sell your ideasto company leaders? Yes, but the success dependson how you frame the opportunity.

The first step is to avoid talking about the idea itself. While that may sound strange, it’s the primary sales rule that most people break. You may love your ideas, butthe feeling isn’t always mutual.When you’re selling your ideas to others, you shouldn’t focus on yourpreferences. You must focus on the other person, and here’s how:

Understand the pain of the person.

Forget about how excited you are about theidea you want implemented. If you’re going to sell your idea, you have to understand where the other person’s pain is. Maybe they’re dealing withupset stockholders or perhapssales are down. Do your research and uncover the main challenge they’re presently dealing with.

Once you know the other person’s pain, you can positionyourideato sell asa solution to it. Essentially, you have to show the personthat there’s a direct payoff to them if they approve your idea. If you know that the CEO’s greatest pain isa lack of communication between departments, then you have toconsideryour proposaland figure out how it can ease thepain and bring resolve to the situation.

Be sure tostate it clearlyto avoid guesswork.For example, you could say, “I know you’re dealing with poor internal communications. I’ve come across some things that Ibelievecan help you overcome those challengesso the company can grow.”

Then talk about the new idea in terms of solving the current problem only. Don’t go into all the benefits, functions, features, or costs.Right now, you’re simply getting the decision maker on board with the idea and its problem-solving potential.

Solve the predictable problems in advance.

As you have this discussion, you’ll also have to address common objections. Plan for them in advanceby figuringout what theirobjections couldbeand solve thembefore the discussion.

For example, if you’re talking to the CEO about your idea andyou know budgets are tight, you can deduce thattheywill say, “This sounds great, but the CFO won’t approve this right now.” However, because you’ve anticipated this objection, you canreply, “I’ve already run this by the CFO because I knew it was important.”

Of course, before going to the CFO, you’ll have identified their greatest pain and presented the idea to solve it.If what you’re proposing is really a solution, and you showed howit benefits the company’sstrategic imperatives with a good ROI, you will have a receptive CFO.

The goal is to overcome the potential blocks before they arise.

Use the power of certainty to your advantage.

When you’re selling your ideas, the people you’re talking to are thinking risk. Alleviate this fear by remembering thatstrategies based on uncertainty have high risk, while strategies based on certainty have low risk. Prior to the discussion, ask yourself, “What are the things I’m absolutely certain about regarding this idea? What are the current hard trends? Where is the industry, company, and economy goingwith or without this solution?”

Make your list the things you’re certain about. For example, mobile devices are quite popular. Is this a trend that you know will continue, or will people eventually trade in their mobile devicesfor an old flip phone of yesterday? The answer is obvious:people won’t go back.Look at sales trends,customers, the economy, andeverything around you.Get clear on what’s a hard trend and what willpass.

Additionally, look at the strategic imperatives of the company and the current plan. Determine if your proposed idea is an accelerator or decelerator of that plan. You want to show how your ideacan accelerate the plan andhow your solution can help increase sales,innovation, andproduct development.

Go into your list of certainties bysaying, “Here are things I’m certain about in the marketplace and in our company. Based on this certainty, here is why implementing this idea is a low-riskwinner.”

An Anticipatory Approach to Selling

It’s important to remind yourself before the meeting that if you haven’t done the groundwork to excite the listener, you’lllose them. As you’re busy talking about features and benefits, the other person is thinking about costs, risks, and uncertainties. Having a preemptive solution is an anticipatory approach to selling — you’re anticipating the problems, rejections, objections, andconcerns so you can overcome them.

Anyone who has worked with C-level executives knows that leaders get excited about many thingswhilecarryingthe weight of costs, controls, and constraints.Challenge those issuesby makingwhat you offer about priority, relevancy, and strategic imperatives to sell your ideas.



Daniel Burrus

#1 Bestselling Author, Global Futurist, Innovation Expert and Keynote Speaker. One of the World’s Leading Futurists on Global Trends and Innovation.